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Don’t delay reasonable accommodations decision

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employees who are disabled are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Employers and employees are supposed to talk about possible accommodations in what’s called the interactive accommodations process.

An unreasonable delay in the process may amount to an ADA violation.

Recent case: AT&T Mobility Services employee Maylena Thornton had to have eye surgery and missed some work when her recovery was complicated by migraine headaches. She asked for reasonable accommodations to help her see her computer screen.

First, the company turned down the request because Thornton allegedly used the wrong form. Then the right form sat unanswered from June until the following March—when AT&T finally made adjustments to her computer screen and software.

Meanwhile, she had requested another accommodation: leave time for missing work on two days when it snowed. Her eye condition made it unsafe to drive under wintry conditions. AT&T entirely ignored that request.

Thornton sued for ADA violations. The court ordered a trial, reasoning that, at the very least, there was evidence that the company had refused to engage in the interactive accommodations process for months on end. (Thornton v. AT&T Mobility Services, No. 10-3073, CD IL, 2010)

Final note: Here’s how to handle reasonable accommodation requests:

  • Explain to all employees who to contact about any ADA issues.
  • Log each request, regardless of how it is made.
  • Set strict internal time limits to review the request, beginning with a scheduled meeting within a week or so.
  • Consider the employee’s accommodation suggestions and document them. But remind him the employer gets to choose the accommodation that best suits it.

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